Monday, October 26, 2009

Hard-of-hearing student makes transition to Erie school

Source Link - Hard-of-hearing student makes transition to Erie school

Ayesha Austin wasn't sure she would like Grover Cleveland School when she started kindergarten there this fall.

The problem wasn't that she might not like school generally, but that she already liked another school very much.

Ayesha, 6, is profoundly hard of hearing and already was a veteran of four years of preschool at the Dr. Gertrude A. Barber National Institute in Erie. The institute runs northwestern Pennsylvania's only preschool for deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Ayesha loved the school and teacher Cherie Rouse, but was ready to move on to elementary school.

On the first day of school at Grover Cleveland, Ayesha was teary-eyed. Not only was she in a new school, but in a school where almost all of the students can hear.

Now, two months later, Ayesha is happy and enjoying school again.

Grover Cleveland School houses the Erie School District's hearing support classes for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. The children have their own teachers for lessons specific to them, such as learning the American Sign Language signs for "unit" and other mathematical terms. Then they spend most of the school day with hearing students in grade-level classes.

Ayesha, so far, is a star in both worlds.

"She's our smartest kindergartner, I think. I go into Mrs. Cleaver's (kindergarten) class and see Ayesha's hand up to answer all of the questions. I'm so proud of her," hearing support teacher Barb Duchini said.

Grover Cleveland's hearing students learn sign language so they can communicate with deaf and hard-of-hearing classmates.

All of the students benefit from the interaction, Duchini said.

"They learn to talk to each other as kids and friends," she said.

Hearing students also benefit from special speakers used in classrooms with deaf or hearing-impaired students. Research has shown that the compact speaker systems can help all students hear better and master language skills in noisy classrooms, Duchini said.

Aides and interpreters sometimes assigned to classes with students also benefit the class as a whole.

"They focus, of course, on the deaf or hard-of-hearing child, but they're also an additional help in the classroom," Duchini said.

Ayesha no longer worries that she won't fit in at Grover Cleveland, although she can hear only very strong sounds, even with her hearing aids.

"I like it here," she said.

But she still misses the Barber National Institute and Rouse.

"People don't understand that we really develop a deeper bond with these kids," Rouse said. "It's not like they can communicate with everyone in the world so easily. They develop a stronger, deeper bond with people who can communicate with them. And Ayesha and I just clicked."

Ayesha is forming bonds with her new teachers and with new friends at Grover Cleveland.

But on Friday, she hopped up and down with excitement before going bowling with deaf and hard-of-hearing students from across Erie County. Once a month, the Erie County Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing sponsors special activities for children.

Ayesha hoped to see Rouse and some of her preschool friends at the bowling alley.

On other days, Ayesha said she enjoys being in her new school.

Duchini interpreted Ayesha's verdict -- that she especially likes her two teachers, but that there is one thing that she doesn't like at Grover Cleveland School.

"Lunch," Ayesha said.